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Georgia Southern recognizes exemplary donors at 2023 Gratitude Gala

(l-r) Georgia Southern President Kyle Marrero, Brian Snell, Billie Snell, M.D., Don Waters, Cindy Waters, Fayebeth Ball, David Ball and Georgia Southern Vice president for University Advancement Trip Addison. 
*Not pictured – Julian and Frances Deal

Georgia Southern University recently hosted its annual Gratitude Gala to recognize key donors for their longtime support of institutional initiatives.

“The people in this room represent Georgia Southern’s most loyal alumni, friends, faculty, staff, corporations and foundations, each of whom has given $25,000 or more to the University, equipping our mission of helping students reach their academic and career goals,” said Trip Addison, vice president for University Advancement, to the crowd. “Each one of you has gone above and beyond in your support of the University, and for each student who is chasing an incredible dream, your support is helping them to take hold of it.

“Because of supporters like you, more than $3 million in scholarships were awarded this year,” he continued. “Over the past few years, we have also experienced record years in charitable support, proving that our alumni and friends believe in what Georgia Southern is doing and the impact it will have on our campus, community and state.”

The 2023 recipients, who were honored on March 31 at the JW Marriott Plant Riverside in Savannah, are:

2023 President’s Visionary Honoree: Don and Cindy Waters

Don and Cindy met at Armstrong State University. Don, a 1975 graduate in accounting, attended law school and served as CEO of Brasseler USA until his retirement in 2016. Cindy, a 1976 graduate in management and finance, enjoyed a career in logistics. In 2013, Don was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal to serve on the Georgia Board of Regents, which enabled him to advocate on behalf of Armstrong State and Georgia Southern. Don and Cindy’s vision of advancing health education in the Southeast led them to provide the funding to name the University’s Waters College of Health Professions. Through their naming of the Waters College, endowments were established which allow the institution to have scholarship opportunities for students and professional development opportunities for faculty. 

The Waters College of Health Professions is the largest college at Georgia Southern and allows students to pursue majors in three departments and a school of nursing. Home to two doctoral programs, one in physical therapy and one in nursing, students hone their skills in state-of-the-art academic settings. Don’s leadership at the state level helped secure the funding for the Health Professions Academic Building on the Armstrong Campus in Savannah. With the joint vision of Don and Cindy, the University is changing the face of healthcare in the south as the largest provider of health professionals in the state. 

Georgia Southern honored the Waters for their unwavering support and transformational giving to the University with the President’s Visionary Award. 

2023 President’s Ambassador Award: Julian and Frances Deal

Julian, a 1960 graduate in business education, and Frances, a 1967 graduate in business, have been loyal supporters and ambassadors of Georgia Southern for the last 40 years.

Julian became a member of the Georgia Southern University Foundation in the 1970s and was named Chair in 1985. Loyal Eagles, the Deals are recognized for their love for the University, Georgia Southern Athletics and watching students succeed. 

Most recently, Julian and Frances pledged to support the Anthony P. Tippins Indoor Practice Facility with a gift of $50,000.

Georgia Southern honored the Deals with the President’s Ambassador Award for their unwavering support of Georgia Southern academics and athletics.

2023 President’s Innovator Award: David and Fayebeth Ball

Through the vision and generous gifts of David, a former restaurateur, and his brothers, Warren and Lamar, the University’s Center for Wildlife Education and Lamar Q Ball, Jr. Raptor Center was created in 1997. The site not only offers a home to Georgia Southern’s feathered friends, including the University live bald eagle mascot, Freedom, but it has grown into one of the leading environmental education facilities in Georgia.

Since its opening, David and his wife, Fayebeth, have not only given significantly to the Center in all of its endeavors, but they have worked to create funding opportunities for their wide network of friends and acquaintances. 

David and Fayebeth have further dedicated themselves to projects like Georgia Southern’s new Jack and Ruth Ann Hill Convocation Center. 

Georgia Southern honored the Balls for their True Blue spirit with the President’s Innovator Award.

2023 Legacy Society Award: Brian and Billie Snell, M.D.

Brian and Billie met at Georgia Southern in the late 1970’s. Brian graduated in 1978 with an accounting degree and Billie earned a degree in biology in 1979. They moved to Augusta, where Brian earned an MBA while Billie attended the Medical College of Georgia. Their careers took them to Gadsden, Alabama, where Billie joined the Gadsden Pediatric Clinic and Brian’s career in pharmaceuticals flourished. Yet, they always remained loyal to Georgia Southern University and have supported many departments on campus. 

Recently, they announced a legacy gift of $750,000 to benefit the Department of Biology and its students. 

Georgia Southern honored the Snells with the 2023 Legacy Award for their many years of giving and generosity.

Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/R2 institution founded in 1906, offers approximately 140 different degree programs serving nearly 26,000 students through 10 colleges on three campuses in Statesboro, Savannah, Hinesville and online instruction. A leader in higher education in southeast Georgia, the University provides a diverse student population with expert faculty, world-class scholarship and hands-on learning opportunities. Georgia Southern creates lifelong learners who serve as responsible scholars, leaders and stewards in their communities. Visit


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